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Friday, July 11, 2014

Crustose, Foliose and Fruticose

Say it 3 times fast?  I have trouble saying it once slowly!  What it means is that I found a lot of lichen specimens at The Ridges in Baileys Harbor.  On our first trip out there we were focused on the wildflower display, so I went back out by myself on a wet morning to check out all the lichens.

Variety of lichens - the sticklike ones in the back are called Common Powderhorn

Most lichens grow very, very slowly, often less than a millimeter per year, and some lichens are thought to be among the oldest living things on Earth.  Most growth occurs in spring and fall when temperatures are cool and humidity is high though some will continue photosynthesizing even in below freezing conditions.

A new patch of lichen begins

The lichen fungi cultivate partners that manufacture food by photosynthesis. Sometimes the partners are algae, other times cyanobacteria, formerly called blue-green algae. Some enterprising fungi exploit both at once.  The lichen converts food from the air itself (how cool is that!), and while it needs moisture some lichens can go as long as 62 weeks without it!

Lichen are everywhere, and grow on three different types of substrate (surfaces): rock, ground and trees.  Lichen growth is an indicator of good air quality.  How much lichen is growing in your area?

Tree substrate

Traditionally three broad categories of lichen have been recognized: crustose (crusty), foliose (leafy),and; fruticose (shrubby).

Bark Disk Lichen (crustose)
Crustose lichens look like... crust.   It has indistinct edges that don't turn up at all and this is one way to distinguish crustose from foliose lichen.  Notice that in the crustose-lichen's center there are some small curdle-like bumps. Later these will develop into tiny cups -- the lichen's spore-producing reproductive structures. The yellow crusty lichen with orange bumps below is Sulphur Firedot

How many different lichen species do you see here?

In the above picture the grayish-brown foliose lichen surrounding the Sulphur Firedot is probably Brook Stickleback lichen.

Foliose - When leafy foliose lichens mature, reproductive "cups" form in the center.   In some species the fruiting bodies, instead of being tiny cups, appear at the curled edges of the lichen body.

Foliose lichen growing on top of crustose lichen

Did you notice the crustose lichen underneath the foliose one in the above picture?  It's probably a Fluffy Dust Lichen, and the foliose specimen is probably a Wrinkle Lichen of some sort.

This yellow foliose lichen is called Powdered Sunshine!

Fruticose is a technical term meaning "shrubby," and many fruticose lichens do indeed look like miniature shrubs an inch or so high.

probably Thorn Lichen

Of course followers of "The Big Bang Theory" know all about the superiority of lichens from Dr. Sheldon Cooper's discussion of which species would be best for humans to merge with.  Of course Dr. Cooper must be referring to a lichen with a tree substrate in his hypothesis.

Close-up of Reindeer lichen

I don't think I'd like to merge with lichen, no matter how efficient it is to get your nutrient requirements met from sunlight.  Maybe a bird of some type?  Then you could go anywhere you liked and see it all from close or from far above.  I could eat bugs if I had to.

Antler lichen..I think

I like all lichens, but who couldn't love the little cup varieties?

Mealy Pixie Cup colony

When you're walking through the woods take time to notice the lichen, sometimes you'll even notice interesting shapes or patterns developing.

Lichen art?

I didn't see any type of beard lichen in Door County, but I saw lots of it Newfoundland recently, remember?  There are diffferent varieties of beard lichen, this one below is probably Boreal Beard Lichen.

Below is a picture I took not in Door County but in the Smokies, just minutes before my bear encounter as a matter of fact.  I found this sample of British Soldiers, a common fruticose lichen growing on a tree stump alongside the trail.  I love the little red caps (apothecia) don't you?   These are the reproductive cups, which are fungal in nature.

Are you asking yourself how does she know all this?  Is Pam some kind of genius?  I could pretend that all my knowledge of wildflowers and now lichens is because I'm some kind of scientific genius, but the truth is I'm just curious about things and all I do is take pictures and then come home and read.  Want to know more about the world around you?  Explore and read!  Want to know more about lichens?  I bought a copy of "Lichens of the North Woods" to help me learn about them and identify them.  The internet is not very helpful on this particular topic.

This wraps up my posts about Door County, now I'm on a mission to finish up my posts from Munising in May.  And to catch up on reading what everyone else has been up to around the country!  I'm a month behind again due to all the time I've been spending researching for all my own travel posts, but I'm sure the rest of you have been as busy as I have been and haven't even noticed!


  1. Pam these are so interesting and spectacular macros of nature - I love the lichens and all ...

  2. Wow, these are amazing photos.. Thanks for sharing these beautiful lichens.. Happy weekend!

  3. WOW Pam this is great! I had no idea you were a lichen expert. We see them and marvel at them all the time but now, thanks to you, we know a lot more about them. How in the world did you get these great pictures and learn so much about lichens? Thanks so much for posting this. It's better than any id book.

    1. Aw, shucks! For the pictures I use an extension tube which mounts between the lens and the camera body. It acts much like a macro for much less money! B&H photo's website offers the 3 piece set of different sizes that fits on the Canon for 79.95. I mostly use the smallest size because the bigger you go the close you have to get and the harder it is to get it in focus. Great for insect shots too!

  4. Who knew there was so much to learn about lichen. Here I was thinking you were a biology major or teacher. Interesting post.

    1. Nope, just a nerd. Of course my passion for learning was reawakened when we decided to homeschool though.

  5. Nice macro shots of all the lichen. I've seen all three varieties of lichen on my hikes around here.

  6. Great post and wonderful photos. Good move on the extension tubes. My macro lens is a beast to pack around. Very informative. Just glad there was no quiz afterwards.

  7. Great shots of these interesting lichen.